Windy Winching!

Summary of flying for Sunday 12 May 2013
Total Hours0h 11m
Best Height Gain1,000 feet
Total Flights2

I had procrastinated about a trip to Suffolk as the conditions were forecast to be strong with precipitation added in for good measure. However, Mike's comments on the club's forum stating that if I didn't come, I would be reading stories/accounts about epic cross countries to the coast, strongly influenced my decision make the journey to Suffolk.

I arrived at Mendlesham for 11am. The field had already been set-up, but there wasn't any gliders rigged and the wind was very strong and blowing straight down the runway. Slowly more and more people emerged from the woodwork, rigged their gliders, and readied themselves for winching. Keith conducted a briefing then winching commenced.

Mike was first up and with some level of irony, managed to exploit a thermal and escaped the field headed towards the coast! Keith was next, but failed to find a thermal and returned back to launch where he updated everyone on the strength of the wind and the low level wind shear that we'd all need to be mindful of on our landing approaches.

My turn to winch came around and with the glider and myself checked, I was attached to the winch cable ready to launch. Timing launch was critical as the wind gusted and varied in direction. When I launched, I rapidly ascended up to the first release. From then on, the glider yawed around and upon reaching 700 feet, I felt a surge in the tension and opted to release before the weak link or the cable snapped. I had assumed I'd released into a thermal, but as I would find out on my next launch, the thermals low down were being ripped apart by the wind, so finding reliable cores was very difficult.

It didn't take very long before being blown back over the launch area and after one 360, I was directly over the Mendlesham Hangar. I decided to squeeze one additional tight 360 to drop down into a position to land close to launch. As I exited the 360 I transitioned to the uprights, but, as observed by Keith on the ground, I missed the right upright and my 360 continued for a little longer than I had envisaged. The effects of this were further exasperated by the strength of the wind. After I regained control of my glider and avoided Steve's rigged glider, I gently touched down.

After being launch marshal for a number of launches, other pilots began declining launches due to the increased wind strength and varying direction. With no one else wanting to fly, I opted to launch again. I was able to time my launch to coincide with a lull in the wind and successfully completed a full tow to around 1,000 feet. Shortly after I released, my glider did a sudden dive as I passed through the edge of a punchy thermal. After recomposing myself, I commenced a series of 360 degree turns, all the while; my vario omitted a series of happy beeps indicating that there was rising air. Very quickly I was downwind of the launch area with an altitude of 500 feet. Bumbling around in broken thermals, I was able to maintain this height and continued to drift rapidly downwind.

After clearing two fields downwind of Mendlesham, I was down to 400 feet and still determined to find a low save in the form of a more defined and reliable thermal. However, despite my best efforts, this low save eluded me and with an altitude of 300 feet above the ground, I decided on the safer option of landing. With the exception of power lines crisscrossing the fields, there was an abundance of landing options and I opted for a recently ploughed field next to the road leading back to Mendlesham. After I determined where the gate into the field was and had planed my landing to put me as close to this as possible, I commenced my final approach. I flew along the tree line at the downwind side of this field turned into wind and gently touched down in a little bit of a cross wind and made my way to the gateway that I'd spotted from the air.

After unclipping and de-rigging my glider, I phoned Steve to let him know I was down safely and close enough to be able to walk back to the hangar without need for a retrieve driver. I stowed my glider next to a hedge out of sight of the road and began my walk back to Mendlesham. Half way back I looked skywards and saw Steve on a very similar flight to myself. I assumed he'd land somewhere nearby unless he was fortunately enough to find a more reliable thermal than myself. Arriving back at the hangar I collected my car and set off to collect my glider. Steve then phoned and confirmed that he'd landed a few fields down from Mendlesham so I first made my way to him before returning to collect my glider. He had in fact beaten my XC distance by landing 3 fields further on!

After Steve and I were recovered from our mini XCs and back at Mendlesham, it was confirmed that Mike and Keith had pretty much made it all the way the coast. As Steve set off to collect them, the forecast rain arrived ending the day, not a great day, but with some interesting video footage, catching up with everyone at Suffolk and my first XC of the year (1.9k), it was a success!

Flying Log(s)

TypeWinch Launch
DateSun, 12 May 2013 - 13:15
GliderAirBorne Sting 3:168
Duration00h 03m
CommentsWindy launch; 10-15 mph. A little crosswind. Opted to release half way up on tow fearing weak link or cable snap. Missed right upright when landing which made for an interesting landing approach.
Height Gain700 ft
Total Hours58h 12m

TypeWinch Launch
DateSun, 12 May 2013 - 14:45
GliderAirBorne Sting 3:168
Duration00h 08m
CommentsStill windy; 10-15 mph but wind smoother. Full tow to 1000 feet. Broken thermals with sharp edges. Managed to dip in and out of a thermal maintaining 500feet until landing 1.6 km from launch.
Height Gain1,000 ft
Distance1.6 km
Total Hours58h 20m

Total Flying Statistics

The total flying statistics up to and including 12 May 2013:

Total Hours58h 20m
Longest Flight1h 20m
Gliders Flown4
Unique Sites Flown20
Best Height Gain3,000 feet
Total Distance30.2 km
Furthest Flown13.4 km
Total Flights232
Hill Launches106
Winch Launches105
Aerotow Launches21